Authentic Hungarian Christmas Recipes

Find out what dishes Hungarians have at Christmas! Try our traditional Christmas recipes handed down to me by family.

My mom and grandma make these dishes for Christmas every year.

Since I moved to Budapest and have my own family now (a husband and two kids), I want to carry on with these culinary traditions. I often helped my mom in the kitchen and learnt the ins and outs of tasty Hungarian cooking.

On this page I share my favorite Christmas recipes. I hope you’ll enjoy making them as much as I do.

On Christmas Eve we usually have fish soup made from carp, stuffed cabbage and a pastry roll filled with poppy seed, or walnut.

This Hungarian Christmas dessert is called Beigli.

Hungarian Fish Soup/Fishermen’s Soup (Halászlé)

fish soup in 4 white bowls and a stainless steel bowl on a checkered tableEvery region in Hungary have their own fish soup recipe. My family makes it this way:

Ingredients for about 6 portions

  • 1000 g different type of small fish (freshwater fish)
  • 1500 g carp (whole or fillets)
  • 2 tablespoons lard
  • 2 tablespoons Hungarian paprika powder
  • 2 large onion
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 big potato, peeled
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tomato, peeled and diced
  • 1 egg and flour for the noodles

Preparations

  • 1. Clean the fish.
  • 2. Remove its teeth, tail, fins and scales with a sharp knife.
  • 3. Wash it with cold water.
  • 4. Open up the carp at its belly and remove the chitterlings.
  • 5. Slice it up for 2 cm thick slices and salt them.
  • 6. Cut out the eyes from the head.
  • 7. Peel the onions and dice them.
  • 8. Peel the potato.
  • 9. Dice the tomato.

TIP: you can avoid all the hassle of fish cleaning if you buy fillets of carp, or ask the fishmonger to clean it for you. You can leave out the small fish, but one of the secrets of making delicious fish soup is using different types of fish.

Instructions

  • 1. First of all, we make a fish stock from the small fish and the head of the carp.
  • 2. Heat up the lard in a large pan and braise the diced onions.
  • 3. Sprinkle the onion with paprika and pour immediately about 3 L water into the pan to prevent paprika from getting burnt.
  • 4. Put the small fish, the head of the carp, the diced tomato and salt in the pan and cook it until the meat comes of the fish bone.
  • 5. Sieve the stock and bring in to the boil.
  • 6. If you find it a bit thick, add some water.
  • 7. Put the salted carp slices in the fish stock, add slices of hot, green pepper, some salt if necessary and bring it to the boil.
  • 8. Grate the potato and add it to the soup. Cook it for 1-2 minutes.
  • 9. Beat up an egg add 1-2 tablespoons of flour and mix it until you get a batter. It should not be neither too thick nor too thin.
  • 10. Salt it a bit and cut nice ball shapes into the boiling soup with the help of a spoon. Cook it for 2-3 minutes.

Hungarian fish soup is a substantial meal in itself, especially this version with noodles and grated potato in it.

TIP: Download A Taste of Hungary eBook for more Traditional Hungarian Recipes.

Stuffed Cabbage

stuffed cabbage with sour cream in a square smoked glass bowl

Ingredients

  • 6-8 sauerkraut leaves
  • 1000 g chopped sauerkraut
  • 100 g (2 cups) pearl barley or rice
  • 400 g minced pork
  • 1-2 onions
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1-2 tbs lard or oil
  • 2 teaspoons Hungarian paprika powder
  • ground black pepper
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • salt
  • 200 ml sour cream

Instructions

Make the stuffing:

  • 1. Braise half the diced onions in lard, add the minced pork, the pearl barley (rice) and sprinkle it with 1 teaspoon paprika.
  • 2. Add the mashed clove of garlic, some salt, ground black pepper and stir well.
  • 3. Place some stuffing on the sauerkraut leaves and make nice rolls.
  • 4. Braise the remained onion in oil.
  • 5. Remove the pan from the heat, add 1 teaspoon paprika powder, half of the chopped sauerkraut and the bay leaves.
  • 6. Place the stuffed rolls on it and cover it with the other half of the sauerkraut.
  • 7. Add some water and cook it until the cabbage and the stuffing is tender (approx. 1,5-2 hours).
  • 8. Remove the stuffed rolls.
  • 9. Mix sour cream with 1-2 tablespoons of flour and add to the sauerkraut and cook it for 1-2 minutes, dilute it with some water if necessary. The name of this last process is habarás in Hungarian and it thickens the meal.
  • 10. Place the cabbage rolls back in the pan.
  • 11. We have this dish with sour cream and slices of white bread.

Beigli –  Pastry Rolls with Walnut or Poppy Seed Stuffing

slices of walnut and poppy seed beigliA traditional Hungarian Christmas Eve dinner is not complete without beigli.

This pastry can be made a few days, even a week before Christmas so you do not have to make all courses for the dinner on one day.

Ingredients

For the dough

  • 500 g flour
  • 150 ml sour cream
  • 250 g butter
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 20 g fresh yeast
  • 1 egg
  • 50 g castor sugar
  • a pinch of salt

For the poppy seed stuffing

  • 200 g ground poppy seed
  • 150 g castor sugar mixed in 100 ml water
  • 1 sachet (10g) of vanilla sugar
  • 50 g raisins soaked in 50 ml rum
  • grated rind of a well-washed lemon and lemon juice
  • 1 coffee-spoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 coffee-spoon ground cloves

Prepare the poppy seed filling

  • 1. Bring the water with the sugar in it to the boil.
  • 2. Remove the mixture from the heat and pour onto the ground poppy seed.
  • 3. Mix in the drained raisins, the vanilla sugar and ground cinnamon and cloves.
  • 4. Add grated rind of a lemon and 1 tablespoon of its juice.

For the walnut stuffing

  • 1. Bring the water with the sugar in it to th
  • 400 g ground walnuts
  • 250 g castor sugar mixed in about 1 dl milk
  • 50 g raisins soaked in rum
  • grated rind of a well-washed orange
  • 1 sachet (10g) vanilla sugar

Prepare the walnut filling

  • 1. Bring the milk with the sugar in it to the boil.
  • 2. Remove the mixture from the heat and pour onto the ground walnuts.
  • 3. Mix in the drained raisins, the vanilla sugar and grated rind of an orange.

Prepare the dough

  • 1. Warm the sour cream a bit. It should be lukewarm.
  • 2. Add the egg to the sour cream and mix it.
  • 3. Crumble yeast in the mixture.
  • 4. Add diced butter to the flour, sprinkle it with 50 g castor sugar and a pinch of salt.
  • 5. Mix in sour cream with the yeast in it and knead a dough.
  • 6. Make 4 loaves, wrap them up in cling film and let them rest in the fridge for at least 2 hours (even better, if you leave it there for a whole night).
  • 7. Knead the loaves a bit.
  • 8. Roll them out into a 1/2 cm thick rectangle on a floured board.
  • 9. Spread filling onto the dough, leave out a 2-3 cm strip at the longer side.
  • 10. Fold back a 2-3 cm strip at the shorter sides (prevents the stuffing from coming out).
  • 11. Roll the dough up and place them in buttered oven dish.
  • 12. Brush the top of the rolls with slightly beaten egg yolk and let them rest for 30 minutes.
  • 13. Spread the rolls with egg white, it gives a nice glaze.
  • 14. Let rolls rest for another half an hour.
  • 15. Prick the top and the sides of the rolls with a fork, it prevents cracking.
  • 16. Bake the beigli in preheated oven at 180 °C for about 40 minutes until the top gets a nice brown colour. In the first 20 minutes do not open the oven.
  • 17. Let pastry cool in the oven dish. Cut the rolls into slices if you want to serve them immediately.

Otherwise, wrap the rolls in cling film and store them in cool, dry place. You can store them for 2-3 weeks. They’re very nice with a cup of tea or coffee. Beigli can be freezed.

Related: Christmas in BudapestLearn to Cook HungarianHungarian Easter RecipesHungarian DishesGoulash RecipeHungarian Wines